Monday, December 11, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Judge's ill-advised blow to Channelside renewal

A federal judge dealt a terrible blow this week to Tampa's effort to revitalize Channelside Bay Plaza. By rejecting the Tampa Port Authority's deal to buy the retail complex from an Irish bank, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Sontchi stopped the clock on a vital civic project, kept the fate of the Channel District in limbo and raised the costs and risks to local taxpayers of stabilizing a public asset that is key to downtown's economy and appeal. Port officials should work through the judge's pinched legal perspective in the case and join the bank in bringing a stronger offer to the table.

The port's governing board agreed in September to buy out the Irish Bank Resolution Corp., which owns the mortgage on the buildings and which foreclosed on the property in 2010. The $5.75 million deal would have given the port, which owns the land under Channelside, total control of the property, ending an awkward two-headed ownership scheme and marking a fresh start for the retail and entertainment center that has struggled for years.

But the judge rejected the sale Tuesday and ordered liquidators to reconsider offers, saying a competing bid for $7 million by an investors' group, Liberty Channelside LLC, was denied on insufficient grounds. The port exercised its veto power over the sale in May after negotiations turned hostile, citing concerns with Liberty's commitment to rehabilitate the property. In his ruling, the judge said the deal the port subsequently arranged with the bank to buy the property was substantially lower in value, and he ordered liquidators to "kick the tires" and "market this thing aggressively" to generate a deal the court could approve.

The judge's ruling ignores the public costs the port has absorbed in its years-old battle to find new and responsible long-term partners to run the retail center. In the past several years, two purchase agreements have collapsed, the center has lost more tenants and customers, and the complex has lost valuable time in this recovering economy by failing to remain competitive. The ruling ignores the intangible benefit of bringing Channelside under sole ownership and local control. It also ignores the value of ending this uncertain business climate by bringing in a new vision for Channelside and the millions of dollars a permanent operator could bring to reshape the venue. The judge has a responsibility to maximize this asset for creditors, but his decision completely missed the public interests at stake and the value to the bank in settling after all this time.

Port and bank officials should set aside any bruised egos and work to salvage the deal. The bank still has a financial stake in moving quickly to rid itself of Channelside, and the port — as a major landowner and player in the Channel District — still has an interest in ensuring the complex shapes downtown for the better. The motivations that brought the two parties toward a deal last September haven't changed. It may merely require renewing that commitment and laying out more money and clearer terms so the judge can better see the value to both sides of ending the stalemate and maximizing a community asset.

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Another voice: Privacy in the internet age

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Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over stateís rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week wonít make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, itís obvious that Jeff Vinikís plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trumpís risky move

President Donald Trumpís decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israelís capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough Countyís Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Voters in Temple Terrace, Plant City and Thonotosassa have an easy choice in the Dec. 19 special election to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons. Republican Lawrence McClure is the only credible candidate.McClure, 30, ow...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

It has been 1,979 days since all heck broke loose in the flood insurance industry. Apparently, that just wasnít enough time for Washington to react. So with the National Flood Insurance Program set to expire on Friday, itís looking increasingly likel...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17